Interview with Michael Walton
Websites: mwvm.co.uk - silbermedia.com/mwvm - myspace.com/mwvm
Listen to "mind the gap"
QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?
Michael – A Fender Squire Strat. Black, white pickguard, with a rosewood neck. I wanted the guitar David Gilmour used in Live at Pompeii. I eventually sold it for £20 or something ridiculous like that.
QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?
Michael – At the moment I’ve cut my FXs right down. Fender Telecaster>Marshall Shredmaster>Line 6 M9>Frostwave Resonator>EHX Memory Man>Fender Vibrochamp XD & a Peavey Classic 30. I’m considering selling my Resonator, they go for crazy money at the minute.
QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig – guitar, amplifier, or effects?
Michael – I’ve owned loads of different guitars, I bought a USA Telecaster in 1997 & it’s been my main guitar ever since. The Vibrochamp is superb for slide & clean tones, the Peavey Classic 30 gives me more umph with regards to guitar “pad” fade-ins. FX? I’d say the Shred Master - quite a vocal guitar FX. I’ve used it on every track I’ve recorded, especially the glissando slide. I couldn’t replace it, really. It’s the only pedal that has survived since about 2000. I recently got rid of my beloved Line 6 DL4, mainly because the Line 6 M9 does the same job plus much, much more. I used to ridicule multi-FX units, I owned a few over the years & they’ve all sounded rubbish. The Line 6 M9 has put to bed my hate of multi-FX, brilliant pedal.
QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?
Michael – Hmmm...difficult one. Since I recorded the last album I’ve had 5 or 6 different amps, my fav was a Mesa Boogie 5:50 Express – fantastic shimmering cleans, but with regular guitar playing it sounded a bit metal, like it needed to be shredded - no thanks. The Peavey Classic 30 is quite noisy, probably needs some caps replacing or something, saying that I’ve used it quite a lot on new recordings.
QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?
Michael – My standard Tele. Glissando slide doesn’t sound the same on any other guitar. I prefer single coil guitars, they are more appealing to my ears. Glissando guitar on humbuckers is no good, you pick up more noisy/scratchy sounds of the tonebar against the string. No idea why, must be something to do with the extra gain.
QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?
Michael – It would do what those new Moog guitars do but look like a Blonde White Telecaster, black pickguard with a Maple neck & those old oval tuners.
QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?
Michael – I’d like a Binson Echorec type pedal with modern digital controls & a looper.
QRD – How many guitars do you own?
Michael – Three. A 1997 Standard USA Telecaster, a 2010 Thinline Deluxe Telecaster & a shitty acoustic at the moment.
QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?
Michael – In my dining room (where all my equipment is kept).
QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?
Michael – A bit more FX pedal storage.
QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?
Michael – The way it looks, always. I’ve owned six Telecasters over the years, all different set-ups, components, & colours. I just like how they look. It seems silly to go for looks first, but truth be told, all my favourite guitarists played Telecasters - so I know what to expect with regards to tones.
QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?
Michael – The most I’ve paid for a guitar is £800ish. A 2009 Standard Stratocaster (that I have since sold). You pay for what you get, simple as. The 2009 Strat was lovely to play, & had the best vibrato/tremolo system I’d played. It pissed on cheaper Mexican guitars. The finish was nice too. Cheaper guitars go out of tune & that sort of thing.
QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?
Michael – Yeah, I’ve done all kinds of mods. 4-way/out of phase/series/parallel switching Telecasters, bleed caps. 7-way switching Strats. I once installed a sustainiac pickup in a Epiphone LP (I hated the tone of that guitar). I’ve also dabbled with various vintage pickups in Strats. It was a big regret to sell on the Sustainiac pickup though.
QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?
Michael – I usually check out YouTube & review sites first. Then if a local store has whatever I want in stock I’ll spend a few minutes trying it out. If it excites you, then you know you’re on to a winner. Got to admit though, the honeymoon period doesn’t last long with most new bits of kit.
QRD – Do you change your rig around often?
Michael – Ha. I’ve had loads of different set-ups since Rotations. Different guitars, amps, FX. If I listed them all it would get embarrassing - seriously. I’ve settled with my current set-up now for about 4-5 month, that’s a good sign.
QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?
Michael – Only the one, really. When I had a ‘69 Tele with 4-way & out of phase switching, I could get loads of different tones. I used that on some recordings, but in general the out of phase tone is generally unusable, thin & not pleasant on the old ears.
QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?
Michael – One of those Moog E-1 guitars. They are every dronester’s dream I think. Way out of my league. I always wanted an Eventide pedal, then I bought one - a Pitch Factor. Expensive, but a quality pedal. I only sold it on as I needed the cash. You could play “slide chords” up to 4 note with a single string, using an expression pedal would change it to major/minor or whatever. I’d say a real tape delay, that’s what I’d really like. Amps? I’ve played on some beauts, again they cost too much money but I’d really like a Bogner Duende - that sounded beautiful.
QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?
Michael – Nothing.
QRD – What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases you’ve made?
Michael – When we had our daughter, I wanted to down size, so I bought a Boss GT8. It sounded dog shit, so do Line 6 Pods, awful. I also bought a Epiphone Les Paul studio I modded. What a dull lifeless guitar, even acoustically, it sounded dull. Terrible guitar.
QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?
Michael – Some, not all of the Line 6 range is quite appealing & forward thinking. Fender guitars & amps.
QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?
Michael – Blues. I always play blues, David Gilmour stuff. However, my favourite song I like to play is “Love Spreads” by the The Stone Roses.
QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?
Michael – 15 or something.
QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?
Michael – I still haven’t got to a level that I’m comfortable or confident with. I improve every time I learn or try new stuff.
QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?
Michael – I still think a faded in “pad” guitar>delay>reverb>amp sound is better than anything a synth can deliver. I’ve sampled the full range of a faded in “pad” & glissando notes on a guitar. So I can play the sounds I like with a keyboard.
QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is?
Michael – Whatever instrument influences you to start playing music in the first place should be your first choice. Within reason.
QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?
Michael – It’s the first port of call, if that’s what you mean.
QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?
Michael – Syd Barrett, David Gilmour, a little Daevid Allen, Jonny Greenwood.
QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming their guitar)?
Michael – Silly.
QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?
Michael – I walked in to a door handle with my Tele. It’s chipped away the paint right to the wood.
QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing your songs?
Michael – Radiohead, Pink Floyd songs. Loads of stuff. Even The Rolling Stones. It has no relevance on what I record.
QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?
Michael – I work away from home during the week. Sometimes I’ll take away the guitar, sometimes I wont, same with my laptop. Weekends are sports/family orientated, but I manage to fit in some playing here & there. A good week, I’ll play about 8-10 hours. A bad week, no guitar at all.
QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?
Michael – Those yellow/orange Dunlop ones.
QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?
Michael – 10s. They are more comfortable to play.
QRD – How often do you change strings?
Michael – Every 4-5 months.
QRD – How often do you break strings?
Michael – Very rare, I’m no shredder.
QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?
Michael – The co-ordination of both doing what you intend them to do. I don’t think about styles too much.
QRD – Do you set-up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech (or not set it up at all) & why?
Michael – I set everything up myself. It’s a high action for slide. The only thing I send my guitars out for is a fret dress. Which my wife’s work colleague does.
QRD – What tunings do you use & why?
Michael – Standard. For slide I tune it to fit what track I’m recording, usually Open G.
QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?
Michael – I don’t write anything down. If I come across something I like, I record it.
QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?
Michael – I sit down.
QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?
Michael – Those same runs your fingers automatically do when you pick up a guitar. However, this doesn’t effect what I record.
QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?
Michael – The bass I suppose. Maybe some keyboards. I mean, I still see fret positions, not notes when I play the guitar.
QRD – What’s a type of guitar playing do you wish you could do that you can’t?
Michael – Delta Slide that sounds good rather then shabby.
QRD – What’s a guitar goal you’ve never accomplished?
Michael – Play a full song without making a mistake.
QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?
Michael – No idea.
QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?
Michael – Slide. I can safely say the Ebow does not feature on any new recordings. It’s over used in the genre.
QRD – What’s a guitar technique you’d like to master, but haven’t?
Michael – I’ve always impressed by flamenco guitar playing. The timing, usually. I have no intention of learning this style.
QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?
Michael – I went to one or two. The last time I went, this guy (who was a shredder) told me he was gonna make the Terminator movie with self made props & a camcorder. Bit of a weird cunt. I didn’t go back.
QRD – What would you teach someone in a guitar lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a guitar teacher?
Michael – Nothing.
QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?
Michael – Play very simple glissando guitar parts.
QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?
Michael – They work. Folks like Jeff Beck make the guitar sound so unique using a tremolo.
QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?
Michael – I always roll it off to about 8. Then if I need more presence for lead part turn it to 10.
QRD – What do you see as the difference between lead guitar & rhythm guitar players?
Michael – These are getting silly now. It’s a bit like saying, what’s the difference between a lead singer & backing singer?
QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?
Michael – No, band first as a whole. I mean, I’ll always admire someone who plays their instrument well, but the overall output & how it makes me feel is the important bit.
QRD – What famous musician’s guitar would you like to own & why?
Michael – I’m not really that type of person.
QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?
Michael – Jonny Greenwood. Constantly impressive to hear. Looks like a dick when he plays though.
QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?
Michael – The MP3 attached to this interview.
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